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If you had asked me at the beginning of 2020 what my outlook for the year was, I would have said ‘full of promise and hope’. Our county had experienced its fair share of tragedy and stress, and 2020 started off on a positive note. Over the past seven months, 2020 has proven to challenge these feelings, but come to find out, we are a resilient, compassionate, and determined county.

Who knew that we would be experiencing the pandemic of a lifetime that all of the training, exercising, and drilling could never ever fully prepare the public health system for? And while most of 2020 has been consumed with how to live life with a novel virus that has killed over 210,000 lives in our country overshadowing us, I am proud of the county where I live and serve.

Courtesy photo

I am grateful that the majority of our county has pledged to follow the 5 commitments to containment:

  • Maintaining 6 feet of physical distance
  • Wash our hands often
  • Properly wear face coverings in public
  • Get tested if we have symptoms
  • Stay home when sick

Other than at the beginning of the pandemic and until recently, Chaffee County has been able to reduce the transmission of the virus, despite many people visiting from out of the county and state, reducing restrictions, and mild but real resistance to the public health strategies.

While our county has experienced a total of 365 positive cases at the time I write this, we are only aware of 97 positive community cases not associated with large institutional outbreaks, about 30 of those occurring in the past three weeks.

It has been fortunate that the morbidity and mortality of the virus have remained relatively low, but my heart is heavy for having lost 14 local lives due to COVID-19. The sudden increase in positive cases has me concerned.

Our county has made so many sacrifices to get to and maintain a stable COVID-19 environment, and while we are all experiencing pandemic fatigue, now is not the time to give up or become lax in our decisions. With the cooler months upon us, including several holidays that include tradition, celebration, and joy, it will be tempting to engage in activities that increase the spread of the virus. Many of us will be experiencing a wide range of emotions as we have to make difficult decisions for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) urges you to please do what you can to be accountable and responsible in the months to come, as we are all in this challenging and uncertain time together.

Over the past several months, CCPH has continued to build a strong local public health system, supported by leaders and stakeholders across the county. The decisions we make are inclusive, coordinated, and collaborative. CCPH has hired two contact tracers to ensure timely case identification and exposure notification every day of the week. In addition, the department has hired an additional nurse, communications specialist, and community outreach coordinator with emergency funding from the state.

The COVID-19 team at CCPH works closely with the school districts, the hospital, medical community, and businesses to provide ongoing support and guidance as our county navigates one of the most complex and ever evolving health threats in recent history. CCPH, along with other healthcare providers, has ramped up its testing efforts across the county, and free testing is available through a multitude of channels most days. We anticipate even greater testing capacity in the near future.

Of course, with testing comes the chance of receiving a positive result. Our public health strategies of mitigating the spread of the virus through isolation and quarantine are not about shame or blame but rather keeping our community as safe as possible from the virus.

We take confidentiality seriously, and we have implemented safeguards to support the most sensitive response system as possible. CCPH aims to remove any barriers associated with isolation and quarantine, and we have secured resources to alleviate the burden of these inconvenient, disruptive, and frustrating measures.

If we can contain COVID-19 in our county, schools can continue to provide in-person learning, and our business community can operate. Our county is well aware of the emotional toll that the public health strategies have had on all of us, especially our youth. CCPH and others are working closely with our community mental health center, Solvista Health, to support the behavioral health needs of everyone in our county.

Our local response to a pandemic is not easy. It is exhausting, dynamic, and can also be confusing. CCPH is doing its best to educate and protect our beloved county.

We thank all of you for doing the right thing, even though for many of us, it is the toughest thing we have ever been through.

Andrea Carlstrom, Director

Chaffee County Public Health